I say US border because it turns out, in Port Huron, one must go through a US checkpoint before the Canadian checkpoint when leaving the US. SF writer Dr. Peter Watts was beaten and arrested by US border guards this week when they stopped him to search his car and he asked them what was going on.
His belongings were seized (notepad, flashdrive, computer, rental car, coat) and he was released on foot after being arraigned and charged into Ontario’s winter snowstorm in nothing more than shirtsleeves. Luckily, he didn’t die of exposure. There have been cases of people picked up by police and then dropped off in extreme weather to then die of hypothermia. Frank Paul was one.
Thankfully Watts wasn’t tasered as the BC RCMP did to Robert Dziekanski. He will thus live and get a chance to refute the charge by the US Homeland Security office (a name that has always raised my hackles and reminds me of some Nazi-esque terminology) that could land him in a US prison for two years.
According to his words he didn’t resist and didn’t fight these border thugs but that didn’t stop them from asserting more power than was needed and abusing people because they feel they’re untouchable. I have never had problems with the Blaine border crossing except for one jerk (oops two) who were more interesting in threatening than in being reasonable and most border guards are people who just do their jobs. Some are friendlier and some of cold and efficient. And a few throughout the US and Canada take their power and push it like dictators.
Perhaps Peter Watts can get the appropriate minister or MP of the government of Canada to help him out. When you look at Canada’s record with Canadians stuck abroad, or, like Maher Arar, allowed to be taken to another country and tortured so that the US and Canada could pretend that they wanted torture, it’s not that good. Watts is white though and not Muslim so he might stand a better chance. Harper’s government isn’t exactly known for being compassionate towards those who are white.
He now faces a long and scary road through the US legal system and if it’s anything like here, the police or US guards are rarely found in wrongdoing. How many cases of people killed while in police custody have ever resulted in an officer being charged and the case not dismissed as accidental? Not many I tell you. Watts will probably have to spend more money than he has to try and save himself, and in the end, if he doesn’t serve time, he may still be blacklisted from ever entering the US. Good luck to him and I hope our government will intervene but we can’t count on that anymore.
Following are the articles at BoingBoing and Watts’ own blog: